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imperialism & war

Minor Cracks Appearing in Congo Peace Process

A massive re-organization of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is underway, bringing together the parties who fought a bloody civil war for almost five years between 1998 and 2003.
Given the acrid bitterness that has divided these groups for so long and the horrendous death toll that arose from the war, it is remarkable that they have managed to find common ground and goodwill. Largely, this has been a home-grown solution although they have been able to lean on assistance from some of their neighbors. There has also been a little international assistance, mainly from Europe.

One of the most difficult areas of negotiation is related to the military. The national government had a military service, but so did a myriad of rebel groups. In the end, the parties were able to agree on how to amalgamate all those fighters and their weapons and how to manage a new combined military unit. However, three high-ranking soldiers of the former Rwandan-backed rebel movement, including General Laurent Nkunda, boycotted the swearing-in ceremonies for the new army. These three are supposed to hold high ranks in the new military but it is suspected they may not have shown up because there are accusations they were responsible for a 2002 massacre in the Kisangani region. They were directed to attend the swearing-in and arrest warrants have been issued for failure to follow military orders. This may be the first crucial test of the new military: will military personnel execute the warrant and take orders from the amalgamated military in Kinshasa or from the militia units to which they belonged during the civil war.

Meanwhile, there continues to be squabbling over the name of the new military services. Many appear to favour Forces Armées Congolaises (Congolese Armed Forces) but this is the name previously used by President Laurent Kabila and does not sit well with some of the former rebels. They say that Forces Armées de la Republique Democratique du Congo (Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo) is the name given in the constitution and it should be used unless some more satisfactory and mutually agreement name can be found.

On a more positive note, reconciliation negotiations have started between the militia units in the Kivu provinces. They have been the scene of bloody fighting both during the war and in ethnic clashes since the war but the parties now appear to agree that it is time to put the past behind them.

Finally, and in a negative light, it is unfortunate that one of DRC's neighbors has decided to act in a very un-neighborly fashion. Although they have yet to provide any reasons for their action, the government of the Central African Republic (CAR) has banned sales of medical supplies to DRC. An Italian charity has stepped in to fill the breech but there is no indication when, or if, CAR will soften its stand. Their decision placed a significant burden on DRC hospitals, particularly those closest to the DRC-CAR border where there is no easy access to outside services.

YellowTimes.org correspondent Paul Harris drafted this report.

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